Mark Ingram. Russell Wilson. Jack Sears. Frank Gore. Clay Matthews. You may have heard of these athletes. Other than being high-level NFL players, these men all have one surprising thing in common: They’ve incorporated boxing into their workout routines.
Don’t get too excited; these NFL players likely won’t be the next Muhammad Ali. But adding boxing to their training regimes is a great way to remain at the top of their game. Here’s why boxing is the best-kept secret of football pros.
Playing football is one of the most physically demanding sports. Lacking endurance will end many football players’ careers. Boxing, however, is an endurance sport. The most famous boxers, Ali, George Foreman, and Mike Tyson, have a lot in common. Sure, they all have great knockout power, but like any high-level boxer, they also have cardio for days.
Indeed, according to the USC Trojan’s quarterback Jack Sears, the training regimen of a boxer is one of the hardest conditioning workouts he’s ever done. That’s because boxers must prepare for the worst-case scenario, fighting for 12 three-minute rounds.
Sometimes a boxer will get a first-round knockout, but if they’re not prepared to go for the full 12 rounds, then they’ll get outworked. That’s exactly how Floyd Mayweather outpaced and ultimately finished Conor McGregor in the 10th round.
Endurance isn’t everything, as boxers need to hit opponents in order to win fights. It doesn’t matter how hard you hit either; if you can’t land your strikes, you won’t win. This is similar to football, as the speed of your 40-yard dash isn’t everything. If you can’t catch the ball, you’re done.
This is where boxing’s hand-eye coordination drills come in. Sometimes trainers will use high-tech gizmos for advanced workouts. But most of the time, you’re hitting pads your trainer is holding. This improves your reaction times — a crucial trait for NFL players.
Boxing is more than just punching someone for 36 minutes; it’s also about not getting hit. The best defensive boxers, like Mayweather and Tyson Fury, must have a lot of cardio as well as great evasive movements to avoid hits. Although some of these movements, like the Philly Shell, are boxing specific, boxers also drill plenty of head movement and evasive footwork that can be applied to other sports.
Moving out of the way of a punch by using good footwork easily translates to moving out of the way of a tackle in a football game. Not only does boxing improve those movements, but in addition to cardio and conditioning, a wide receiver can stay evasive and avoid being tackled.
Football players are already tough, but boxing and other combat sports are on a different level. You’ve got to be a little crazy to want to get hit in your face, liver, and sometimes groin. Most NFL players who pick up boxing don’t do full contact sparring. However, they still have to endure grueling boxing routines.
High-level athletes like Russell Wilson have to be really tough otherwise they wouldn’t train with some of the best boxing coaches in the world, like Freddie Roach. We wouldn’t be surprised if more NFL players add combat sports to their offseason training regimes.